Blood test to detect colon cancer seeks FDA approval

Yet another biotech company is diligently working to find a safer, less invasive test besides a colonoscopy to detect cancers of the colon and rectum. EDP Biotech Corporation of West Knoxville, Tenn., has announced that it is seeking FDA approval of a blood test to detect colon cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the United States, and is among the most deadly of cancers. In an effort to improve those statistics, doctors began recommending that people have regular colon screenings, such as colonoscopies, to look for signs of the disease. Screenings are recommended beginning at age 50 or earlier for people who have a family history of colorectal cancer or are experiencing symptoms such as blood in the stool.

However, colonoscopies are intimidating. The procedure involves sending a tube with a camera on the end through the rectum and into the large intestines. Patients are sedated during the process, but they must prepare at least a day before the procedure by taking large amounts of laxatives to cleanse the bowel before a colonoscopy.

Between the uncomfortable prep required and the thought of the procedure itself, many people opt to go without. Studies show that less than 20 percent of the people who should be screened for colon cancer actually have a colonoscopy.

Which explains why companies like EDP Biotech are working tirelessly to find a more patient-friendly test. (Not to mention that approval of such a test would mean millions, if not billions, for the company that lands a suitable alternative to colonoscopies.)

EDP Biotech’s ColoMarker test involves adding a chemical to a small blood sample. The reading takes about 30 seconds, and the results are revealed on a computer screen. The test detects a certain marker in the blood that indicates if a patient is clear from colon cancer or needs further testing, perhaps by a colonoscopy.

In tests of 2,400 patients, the ColoMarker detected every case of colon cancer during treatable stages. The company is currently seeking FDA approval and hopes to have the ColoMarker available to the public in one to three years.